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Volunteers add beauty to Rock County parks

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GINA R. HEINE
August 25, 2011
— Volunteers plus natural beauty equals two family-friendly county parks.

From one corner of Rock County to the other, friends groups for Magnolia Bluff and Carver-Roehl county parks put in hundreds of hours annually.


Their contributions to improve the park are being combined with a new educational and preservation tool: being named a State Natural Area.


Portions of both parks recently received designation as State Natural Areas, which protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native landscape, significant geological formations and archaeological sites.


The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin provided a $1,000 grant for educational signs at both parks, said Joleen Stinson, Rock County parks community coordinator.


The parks received the designations because:


-- Magnolia Bluff's unique landscape differs from its surrounding area. The limestone and sandstone bluff marks the second-highest point in Rock County. The park contains remnant savanna plants, including the state threatened kitten tails. The park also has oak trees that are more than 100 years old and a variety of native forest floor plant species.


-- Carver-Roehl has a southern dry-mesic forest and moist limestone cliffs that were carved by Spring Brook Creek. The cliffs support moist cliff species, including bulblet fern, purple cliff brake and liverworts. The site has high conservation value because of the complex biology. The park also contains a historical grave of early settlers.


Now that the parks are designated, the county is doing more to educate people and restore the areas, Stinson said.


"We're fighting invasive species harder than we were before, working to restore native plants," she said.


Members of the Friends of Carver-Roehl Park have pulled garlic mustard each year, secretary Sharon Jones said.


They also clear trails after storms, keep an eye on the park and raise money at their fall festival to fund new items for the park. Last month, money from the friends group and the county was used to install a new playground.


"We're all neighbors in the community, and we all care about that park," she said.


At Magnolia Bluff south of Evansville, volunteers have been restoring the savannah along the bluff rim and helping to control erosion, Stinson said. An equestrian group also does trail maintenance in the park.


"It's a big deal," she said of the contributions from volunteers.


Mowing lawns and clearing downed trees keeps the "pretty small" county crew busy, she said.


"Restoration unfortunately usually ends up on the back burner. Without them out doing that work, (it would be) pretty infested with invasives," she said. "All of our volunteers are essential to continuing to improve parks."



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